Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Do You Have the Gift of Giving Gifts?

With the holiday season coming up, but still far enough away to plan, let’s talk about gifts. I am such a hypocrite when it comes to gifts. If you are familiar with the five love languages, I’ve always said that gift giving is not my strongest love language. It is a chore for me to think up appropriate presents for even my closest friends and family members, and even worse with local Mexican friends.

However, I am extremely blessed by the amazingly perfect tokens that others have given to me. I enjoy having little reminders of loved ones scattered throughout my house. Even non-sentimental gifts like Tupperware and cars make me remember fondly the people who gave them.

This past Sunday dh and I took the kids to a pastor’s house in the city, taking a tiny edible offering (some homemade cranberry bars that took me all of ten minutes to throw together before baking). In return, we were served a lovely chicken dinner with a special “Oaxacan black mole” sauce made from seven chilies (that requires at least six hours to prepare from scratch). When we left, they gave the kids a glass candy dish full of candy, my husband a framed map of Oaxaca, and me a decorative clay vase. It was almost embarrassing.

These things happen to me on a regular basis. People love to give presents. Even when I visit a friend in the prison here, she blesses me with gorgeous painted tin art that she makes. While I may never out-give either the pastor or my inmate –not to mention all our stateside friends—their tokens of friendship do prompt me to pray for them, and I do feel loved.

With that said, I really wish I could think of a gift that would help friends back home remember me, that would trigger a smile and a prayer occasionally. While waiting for inspiration, I do nothing. That’s terrible, I know. Good intentions are worthless.

What I want to know is what you do for your family, friends, and supporters. Do you send them something at Christmas time? Take souvenirs from your host country when you visit them? Or do you order books or other things from the Internet to be shipped to them?

Have you ever given a gift that was not a hit? Dh once gave some friends a wooden tray with colorful wooden fruit, back when he was single and returned from his first mission trip to Guatemala. The recipients treated it like a gag gift and returned it to him as a joke after we got married. Ouch. That makes us want to stick with safe presents like coffee and chocolate.

However, consumable presents don’t leave a lasting reminder that says “We love you” or “Please pray for us” or “Thanks again for your support.”

What do you suggest?

IRL* I’m open to new ideas.


  1. Hello!

    In the past, I have given baskets or trivets made by the people I serve here in Kenya. The trivets can be hung on a wall or used at the table as a hot pad. Baskets can be used many different ways, but I found that I should suggest some otherwise they were not used by the people but stored away in a cupboard somewhere.

    Recently I gave magnets in the shape of Africa that had "Have you prayed for Turkana today?" on it. I gave these out to friends and supporters when I was home on furlough. We can get hand painted leather bookmarks here fairly cheaply and you can pack many into a small space. So, I have given these as gifts when I was on furlough before too. They have safari animals that would remind people of Africa and hopefully to pray for me. So, there are a few ideas for you.

  2. I LOVE giving gifts. The more practical the better. Folks can usually find a good use for magnets. Since they use them...they see them! Magnets can also be easily homemade. Choose a symbol that either represents your country (flag, map), your family (picture, personal hobby) or your mission agency (logo, etc.)These are usually small, inexpensive and useful. Plus they are great reminders to pray for you!

  3. Yeah, practical is good. We've given woven trivets (that also look good for decoration if so desired) and wooden carved ornaments. Unfortunately handicrafts are not real "big" here, so it is hard to find small items that are nice to bring back for gifts, or ANY items at all, for that matter! The ones we do bring are part of a co-op project to help some of the villages raise money for schools, etc. So they are only producing these items because they know the westerners will buy them. I think this may be one of the only places in the world where people don't make baskets, handicrafts, etc!

  4. I am rubbish at gift giving. ...absolutely horrible! It always brings insecurity and concern. Just last night, I was woken up with the worry about what to give so-n-so for Christmas. It is silly, I know. But, I am learning that even this "small" weakness can be taken to the Lord for His help. ..i.e. I prayed in the night for an idea for this so-n-so and have an idea this morning! Isn't that fun!
    That said, supporter gifts are just as hard for me. We were thinking of giving our supporters a book (one that was particularly encouraging to us this past year). It has nothing really to do with our work perse. Has anyone done this? Is this a bad idea? ...any thoughts would be much appreciated!

  5. We've given a Christmas ornament or an embroidered bookmark (thankfully embroidery is something people do). A bookmark is nice as they pack small, and go in people's Bibles. A few little shawls are also nice since women wear them as accessories - those are usually appreciated too.

    Another thought is a beautiful photo of something from our country paired with a fitting verse (like the picture praise ones). We've done some of those and printed them out as 5x7s, bookmarks, or 4x6 size. Sometimes a mat on them or just given as is - we've seen those on people's walls in their offices and kitchens later.

    Occasionally it works to give a larger gift to a church office or a loving friend who housed us for three years. Then we've done nicely carved trays, candleholders, tablecloths (these pack well, too!. Just making sure that it is tasteful, interesting, and beautiful and it is usually kept and admired for years.

  6. And Junglewife - I still have the bracelet you gave me, and I still wear it and love it! (I had to take it off when I went to work, but wore it constantly before that, and still often wear it.) When it is on my wrist, I think about you and pray for you. It was a great choice!

    And my son LOVED his calendar of airplane pictures which still hang on his wall while he dreams of being a pilot one day.

  7. Ellie - Oh yeah! I forgot about those bracelets! They are nice for those that appreciate them!!

    And the calendar... if you e-mail me your address, I will have our HQ send you a 2012 calendar :-)


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